Knowing how to deal with a narcissist involves letting go of the expectation that you will ever have a normal, healthy relationship.

Your boundaries will be crossed.

You will be given intermittent and inconsistent attention, love, and support.

Worse, in your attempt to survive the bond, you may blame yourself, isolate yourself, and become entirely emotionally dependent on someone who is not equipped to emotionally sustain themselves, much less you.

At this point, it’s indisputable that the only sane advice related to this subject is: leave. But maybe you are in a relationship with a narcissist and cannot imagine leaving. Or maybe you co-parent with a narcissist, live with one, or are in the presence of narcissistic family members, friends, or coworkers.

Like many people, maybe you find yourself routinely surrounded by narcissists despite recently dumping a narcissistic friend or partner. I would never advocate staying in an abusive relationship.

This is not a post about how to grit your teeth through abuse.

The purpose of this post is to help you protect your own emotional ground until you can untangle your own triggers from the actions of a toxic and person in your life.

Survival in the midst of this kind of relationship involves creating your own emotional empire.

This does not just mean giving yourself “self-love.” This is about coming to terms with the fact that you will never receive the type of emotional support that you should be able to expect from this person.

Building your own emotional empire means grounding yourself in a steadfast belief that this type of person cannot truly know you and see you because they never developed the emotional maturity to do so. They cannot even know or see themselves. This is very hard to come to terms with. And it requires constant maintenance or you will fall back into old patterns of assuming that there is something wrong with you (or that you don’t deserve consistent love and support).

The only way to remain sane when dealing with a narcissist is to face reality, grieve what you thought the relationship was, and stay grounded in the reality of the relationship you are actually dealing with.

In order to know how to deal with a narcissist, you must first accept a few baseline truths:

  1. Narcissism is a coping mechanism developed at a very young age.

There are various reasons why this might occur, some of which have to do with severe emotional trauma, but narcissism can also develop in well-intentioned and loving homes. Narcissism is an adaptation to surviving what seems to be a subjectively impossible situation.

No matter the type, recognize that people develop narcissistic adaptations in order to protect themselves.

This adaptation is not finely tuned, nuanced, or selective.

It does not respond to logic or love.

It is old and instinctual.

It will not change.

  1. The adaptation does not discriminate.

Narcissists are people, with different personality traits, just like other people. They do, however, have a pattern of thinking and behaving that remains constant. This pattern is triggered no matter who is around when the narcissist is triggered.

You may assume that a narcissist will treat someone else – someone who is better looking, smarter, cooler, or richer – with more respect.

You may assume that they will suddenly combust into the good person they are underneath it all (or that they presented themselves to be in the beginning).

While a narcissist will make you feel worthless, unloved, and ignored, know that you are only in the path of the storm. Given the right conditions, a hurricane will engulf any home on the coast. This pattern of behavior does not discriminate, even though it purports to act upon “worth.” If narcissism is a hurricane, it will hit a perfect, newly renovated, celebrity home the same way that it would engulf any other home. It is only a matter of time.

  1. Narcissists cycle between seeing themselves as (1) completely worthless or (2) more deserving than others.

This is the pattern. These are the only two options. It is either one or the other. It is a pendulum, swinging from one end to the other, without end.

  1. Negative thoughts and emotions are intolerable.

Negative thoughts trigger narcissists back into believing that they are completely worthless. This is experienced beyond their level of awareness. Just like for any other human, negative thoughts and emotions can strike at any time.

  1. Ego is everything.

In order to cycle back to feeling good (versus worthless), narcissists will incorporate various measures to feel better about themselves which will come off as unbelievable, selfish, and repulsive to others. This includes devaluing and demeaning anyone in sight; betraying partners, friends, and coworkers in order to get a validation hit elsewhere; and punishing those around them who have accidentally (or purposefully) triggered the worthlessness they feel.

The ego requires constant maintenance or their self-esteem will plummet back to an intolerable state. Even if you are important, protecting the ego will always, always, always be more important than you. This means that narcissists can only really deal with themselves. They cannot be bothered with the emotions of others, when all of their energy is required to regulate their own self-esteem. Again, this is part of the adaptation and has nothing to do with you.

The things they do to maintain their self-esteem will not make sense to you. You will be too hurt in the moment to even identify them as methods of maintaining self-esteem. They may be abusive. They are very likely to make you feel worthless, unwanted, ignored, or discarded.  Other people, including someone the narcissist loves and may not intentionally want to hurt, are secondary to survival.

The underlying key to all of these truths is this: the love, attention, validation, credit, or support that you seek from this person will never be consistently given to you, for reasons that have nothing to do with you. You are simply a volunteer in the person’s all systems go, business as usual, way of life.

Pumping the system full of love, loyalty, understanding, and communication only distributes those through the system, to the extent that the system is sophisticated enough to understand and value those qualities. They cannot change the way that the system functions. The system is limited. It is built to protect itself in a very specific way. It is not fair, and it is not capable of returning what you input in kind.

Once you accept these truths, the surprising, hurtful, or counterintuitive behavior of people starts to make more sense.

You can separate your own worth from the deeply rooted patterns of others.

Read those truths again. Without accepting those truths as FACTS (and building an emotional empire that is fortified with those facts), the below ways to deal with a narcissist will never ring true for you. You will be lost and clinging to someone who does not have the self-love, self-awareness and emotional maturity to support themselves or you.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Understand that to a narcissist, feelings are facts.

If a narcissist doesn’t feel good, YOU are not good. This does not mean the narcissist feels an emotion that has some deeper meaning about you or the relationship. It can simply mean the narcissist is tired, hungry, hot, gassy, annoyed, stressed, impatient, sick, too drunk, not drunk enough, etc. This is especially true in the case of boredom, which for narcissists, is pervasive. If you are around, you will also be identified as “not good” by association. Narcissists always fail the “which of these things is not like the other” kindergarten test. When in a dark mood, all things get circled as the same, and all those things are all indiscriminately devalued.

This will make you feel confused and attacked. It will make you feel like it is your responsibility to turn this mood around. It is not. Know that this is just part of the system and emotionally extricate yourself from this moment, if you can.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Understand to a narcissist, amnesia is life.

Along the same lines, in the moment when you are devalued (which can be at any moment), you may feel like everything this person has ever known or loved about you is suddenly GONE. You are back to square one, and square one feels like HATE or DISGUST. Narcissists draw conclusions and make decisions based on what they perceive to be “gut feelings.” In our culture, “gut feelings” are king, and there is no use in talking someone out of what they perceive to be an intuitive truth.

This can be very traumatizing. It will make you feel like you have to do a tap dance montage of everything you have ever done, felt, and contributed to the relationship on 3X speed. You will feel like every intention you have had has been misunderstood. Again, this is a function of the fact that to a narcissist, the only reality is how the narcissist feels NOW. Do not tap dance. You have nothing to prove. This moment will pass. Your feelings of hurt and betrayal will not pass.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: They need you more than you need them.

All humans need love and affection to be healthy. Narcissists are addicted to attention because they feel they need it in order to survive.

Without it, they feel worthless, and that feeling is intolerable. Your energy is valuable. Other people’s energy is valuable too. Try not to take this personally. A hoarder will bring home a case of discounted toothpaste to put in their vault, no matter how much toothpaste they already have – even if the new case is of much lower quality than the other toothpaste they already have. No offense to hoarders. Or you.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Don’t expect to unpack problems or arguments.

Dealing with a narcissist takes “pick your battles” to a new level. Blame triggers a narcissist back into feeling worthless, and when feeling worthless, they are likely to retaliate and make things worse. All of the advice out there about proper communication and problem solving does not apply to this kind of relationship. The onus is on you to deal with what you do not like.

You can communicate your drop-dead/absolutely cannot be crossed boundaries, but understand that those boundaries are more like promises to yourself that you will remove yourself from the relationship completely, if crossed.

They have little to do with the other person because the other person is not good with communication or boundaries. In the meantime, provide positive feedback when it is applicable. Use “we” and “team” statements when having any kind of talk, so that the narcissist doesn’t feel attacked and triggered. Get some eggshells. Practice walking on them. Good luck.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Assume that there is a vicious inner critic inside this person’s mind who can wake up and destroy all that is love, kindness, and self-acceptance, at any time.

This inner critic is awful and abusive. Sometimes what you will hear is the narcissist’s inner voice being projected on you. When this happens, understand that however hated this makes you feel, the narcissist also feels this toward themselves.

This isn’t to say you should feel sorry for this person. Or that you should accept this type of behavior. It just means that you don’t have narcissist ear muffs/selective hearing. You will inevitably overhear and become integrated with something that feels very cruel.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Intimacy is a problem.

The moment when you might feel closer or more connected to this person, is the moment they may pull away or say something so awful to you that it makes you reconsider the entire relationship.  This may happen while on a blissful vacation with your partner, after a “deep” conversation with a friend, or after you complete a project at work, if the narcissist is someone you work with.

Counterintuitive, yes, but this will happen when things seem to be GOOD. Narcissists cannot experience intimacy with themselves. They cannot see themselves as having good qualities and bad qualities at the same time. They cannot conceive of the idea that another person has good and bad qualities at the same time.  But intimacy inevitably involves opening up, accepting, and becoming bonded to the foibles, the things that make us unique, our shadows and our light. For a person who does not have the emotional maturity to withstand intimacy, this experience is like approaching closer and closer to a fire. Unfortunately, this may happen exactly at the moment when your guard is down.

Understand that this is a function of the way the system is built. People with this adaptation freak out when you reveal a vulnerable part of yourself. It does not mean that you are unlovable for who you are. It means the person you have revealed yourself to is limited in their capacity to be emotionally intimate.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Pathological jealousy is rampant.

Narcissists are pathologically jealous at their core.

Often, narcissists are pathologically jealous of the very things they purport to hate/assign a low value to. This constant state of triangulation and comparison will inevitably make you feel like YOU are not good enough. Sometimes this is deliberate. Sometimes this is the narcissist thinking out loud. In either case, pathological jealousy is only a symptom of the pendulum swing back to worthlessness and you are simply hanging onto the pendulum arm for dear life.  Don’t let the pathological jealousy consume you. It is contagious.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Silence is communication.

Narcissists will often stop talking to you or fall off the face of the earth with no warning. While this may make you feel like you are not important or forgettable, the truth is that narcissists use the silent treatment to communicate their displeasure.

You may have triggered their pathological jealousy.

You may have triggered any number of negative emotions.

Only they can decide when the silent treatment is over. Your natural reaction will be to try to figure out what happened, prove your value, and seek attention.

This will be viewed as annoying at best and pathetic at worst.

This type of retaliation will never make sense to you because it is not intuitive, logical, fair, or proportionate to the deed. It has very little to do with you, other than the fact that you were in the vicinity when this person assigned blame to a negative feeling.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Keep going during devalue cycles and silent treatment.

In my opinion, this is the crux of the self-preservation you must commit to when dealing with a narcissist. You will feel awful when you are put down, ignored, and abandoned. This will occur in cycles – some short, some long. For some people, these cycles go on for an entire lifetime. Do not waste your life as you wait for someone to self-regulate back to seeing your value.

Put down the bottle of wine. You may be depressed, but consider using this time as a break. Parent yourself. Make a dentist appointment. When dealing with a narcissist, you will be worse for the wear, no matter how well you believe you are handling this situation. Your body absorbs the stress, and this will inevitably become symptomatic eventually. Take this as an opportunity to take care of yourself. Go through an inventory of how you feel. Address what you have been putting off.

Do not put your life on hold. Even if you believe that the relationship will undergo some miracle transformation, think about what you need to do today to take care of the future you – physically, emotionally, and career-wise. Take deliberate action, because you may be disappearing so much that this type of action may not come naturally to you anymore. Think of this as your insurance policy for whatever the outcome.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Accept that you will never feel good enough for very long.

For a narcissist, perfection is the absence of pain. Even if the narcissist is laughably far from perfection themselves. Image is everything. You will know exactly how to maintain this image, because the narcissist will steadily feed you a diet of their expectations. But maintaining this image is a fast track to exhaustion and self-hate. You were put on this earth to be more than to be a 24-hour perfection concierge for someone else.

You are real, and if you stay in this kind of relationship, understand you must carry the weight of constantly reminding yourself that you ARE worthy, valuable, lovable as you are, despite how the relationship makes you feel. You must build your own emotional empire that supports these TRUTHS or you will feel like you are disappearing as you constantly compare yourself to some unattainable level of perfection.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Expect drama so you can ignore the drama.

People spend their lives cycling in and out of relationships with narcissists because they believe that the narcissist experiences a true change of heart after the narcissist comes “back” after a period of devaluing the person. While it can feel like an incredible relief to feel SEEN again after being mistreated, this cycle back to seeing you as worthy again has little to do with you. You have always been worthy. The swing back is just part of the system, which is constantly churning out value and devalue cycles. Narcissists don’t just value and devalue you. They value and devalue themselves too. See this for what it is before your life becomes a suspense movie on loop.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Don’t tell a narcissist he or she is a narcissist. This is pointless. Just don’t.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: No one is your narcissist.

No one is your “narc.” Using this kind of terminology is a symptom of being traumatized by a toxic relationship. There are a lot of terms that have surfaced when it comes to narcissists that add little value to your life.

Do not fall into the internet rabbit hole.

I’m not saying that you should not conduct your own research about narcissism, and I know people find it profoundly validating to understand that others go through a similar experience.  But know that people also get profoundly stuck, mired in internet research, only to traumatize themselves over and over again.

Go back to the baseline truths about narcissism. Whoever is in your life is a deeply traumatized and toxic person. This is just my opinion, but while this person may be manipulative, they are busy taming their own monsters. There is little to gain from getting to the bottom of their inner world, because their inner world is very shallow. You will never build your own emotional empire from getting a Ph.D. in toxic people.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Practicality is a good reason for this thing other people call love.

Being in the presence of a narcissist comes down to what you can objectively provide with regard to: image, resources, social hierarchy, sex, convenience, etc.

Narcissists may appear to “work harder” in some relationships over others during different times of their lives. At such times they may have an imminent need for a relationship “beard” to support an image of the narcissist as someone who can be a good partner, parent, friend, family member, professional contact, coworker, etc.

The need for different types of relationship beards will change over time, with age, status, along with a million other factors. It may seem like this person is having a better go with a different partner, friend, coworker, etc., but know the system remains the same.

  • How to deal with a narcissist: Ask yourself “why?”

Try to understand: why does getting love and attention from this person FEEL so crucial?

The answer to this question may lie in your own underlying history, trauma, or memory.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved. Despite what we say about the importance of self-love, we are made to feel alive through connections with others. All humans need love, affection, and support. Including people with narcissistic adaptations who may be in our lives for various reasons.

The question is this: why do we choose to continually invest so much of ourselves, specifically to people who do not feel more alive with our touch, who shut down when it comes to intimacy, and who do not make us feel seen, heard, and loved?

The answer may be: because it has always been so.

Imagine yourself as a young child, riding on a carousel. You are gripping the cold metal bar as you ride around on the horse. You are having so much fun. You feel pure joy. You babble out loud to the horse to express your glee. The horse doesn’t respond to you or love you back because it is just an old wooden horse that only knows to move up and down to the rhythm of the carousel turning round and round. Soon the ride is over.

Now imagine, instead of enjoying this moment on the carousel and moving on to other things, you constantly come back to your old horse, later in life, looking for understanding, joy, and solace. Chasing that old feeling. Convinced that only on this carousel can you feel pure joy. During middle school, during high school, in your 20s, 30s, and beyond. Maybe you tell one horse all your stories, the ones that come from deep inside your heart, expecting a response. Maybe you try different horses on the carousel. You are growing up, wearing different outfits, expressing new ideas. You are beautiful, brimming with energy, love, and seeking connection, but all you receive in return is just another familiar spin around the carousel. You only feel lonelier because those wooden horses will never come alive with your touch.

They will never respond to you in kind, no matter what you do. It’s not what they know to do.

People become bonded to narcissists because they experience the relationship with a narcissist as something old and familiar. Something that reminds them of a relationship from some other time. Something that feels like home, like a ride on an old carousel.

They are stuck in a cycle of needing to be loved by a very specific type of person: someone who by definition is not equipped to love them back. Forever opening up and seeking joy from an old wooden horse that will never come alive, no matter how tightly you shut your eyes and wish for it to be so. Maybe you try with others of this same type of person who also cannot truly love you or anyone back, thinking this time will be different. Maybe you find yourself on the same carousel ride over and over again. Locked in the limitations of someone else’s revolutions.

Start to think about what it would be like if emotionally extricated yourself from your old carousel.

As you begin to think about this, you will feel awful. As if the carousel is still moving. In fact, the closer that you get to the edge, the faster it will seem like it is turning around. There will never come a time when you will feel good about getting off. You will feel dizzy and sick and you will want to hang on even more tightly.

Letting go will feel insane.

But know that if you jump off, waiting for you, within your reach, will be your very own, white, responsive, beautiful horse.

You won’t have to work hard anymore to make a carousel horse come alive, because your own real-life white horse is already there for you.

You will jump on your horse and feel the horse’s energy, pulse, and love under you.

You will ride away from the carousel to other experiences, where your love can be returned to you in kind.

This is possible for you. Just think about it.

This post was written by Irena xx

Irena will be answering your comments and questions below 🙂

If you need further and more personalized help with your relationship, please look into working with me here.

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59 comments

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It IS incredibly validating to slip into the internet rabbit hole and soak up everything you possibly can about narcissism. It’s validating and can be detrimental as you said – subjecting yourself to the trauma over and over again. I’ve been reading and reminding myself what I’m dealing with here. Reading seems to keep me more aware and less mesmerized with the bonding that follows the trauma. I’ve been trying to move on. I’ve gone no contact so many times, I almost roll my eyes at myself when I promise this time is the last time.

Just today I saw him for the first time in 3 weeks. One week no contact, 2 weeks of love bombing and bullshit and I saw him today. As I predicted to myself and only myself because I’m too embarrassed to talk to anyone else about it any more, I knew…I’d feel like shit after it was over and I really do. I spent the afternoon in the funhouse loving the images in those distorted mirrors of my hopes. Now the circus is gone and I’m seeing the truth again in the mirrors of reality.

This post was timely, intelligent and gut wrenchingly accurate. Thank you for this. I believe it was meant specifically for me.

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Hi Teresa,

Thank you for sharing. I think it feels like this post was meant for you because you are SO not alone in your feelings and frustration. The back and forth is truly agonizing, and I’m so sorry that you are experiencing this. It sounds like you are doing the best you can to process what you are going through. Please be kind and take care of yourself and to protect yourself. Processing what you are going through can feel really lonely — it’s hard to explain to other people what you are going through. Please keep coming back here and to other supportive networks. Try not to judge yourself. What you are going through is very difficult — please keep going. Much love to you.

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You are not alone Teresa <3 Glad that you enjoyed this article as much as I did. Thank you for being here and for being you. xox

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I know the guy I’m with is this. He’s hot/cold. Ignores me when we disagree. It’s his way or no way. I know I have things to work on in regards to myself. But I can’t figure out why I love him so why I’m so connected to him when he treats me like shit I don’t feel heard seen or loved.

I don’t know how to get out without feeling like I’ve lost my best friend. I lost my mom when I was 21 due to cancer and I feel like that trauma has caused me something inside that I haven’t recovered from. Help. How do I move on

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Hi Cautious,

I’m so sorry about what happened to your mom. I think you’re right –traumatic experiences like that can cause reverberations within us that we sometimes cannot pinpoint or understand — especially when the pain, grief, and sadness of the traumatic experience isn’t processed. My heart goes out to you. I think you should give yourself some credit here for first, starting to put together these pieces and second, for recognizing that you want to get out of the relationship that you are in. That isn’t easy to do — many people become stuck in the same cycle with a toxic person for years. Some for their entire lives. To feel and act on the will to want to move forward is huge.

I wish that there was a simple answer as far as how to move forward. But know that you have already started to move forward by first, identifying your fears for why you feel it would be hard to do so. I think I understand what you mean when you say that you would feel as if you are losing your best friend if you move on. I think a lot of people understand that. You are not alone in this. I don’t know any of the details here, but I think that we fall into these kinds of seemingly unbreakable bonds, somewhat unconsciously, because they remind us of prior relationships and prior traumas. There is no doubt that some people just feel like “home,” but I think the question to ask here is: why do you feel at “home” with someone who does not treat you well? Someone who does not make you feel heard, seen, or loved? Maybe it’s because this is the kind of environment that feels familiar to you, long before you were with your guy.

I know you know this, but best friends don’t treat you in that way. Moving on and healing is different for different people, but what I do know is that we cannot heal in the same environment that hurt us. Natasha has an incredible course called the “No Contact Contract.” That is a great starting point for steeling and following through on the courage to move forward.

What you are going through is very difficult. Please know that you are never, ever alone in your feelings and struggles. Thanks for sharing and for being part of this community. Much love to you.

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I could not have said it any better <3 xoxo

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I was married to sociopath narcissist 25 years. Left us (children included) for another man. (Infidelity). It crushed us. Moreover after reveal identify thief against all of us. Shock traumas triggered and crushed me. Attempted suicide twice. Almost suicide-success the second one. Recovering was extreme difficulties I ever experienced. Agony, angers, pains, and you name it was astounding hardest to deal with. Especially being on fixed income. Divorced. Fast forward. Do she care any of us? No. 25 years wasted. Goals gone, mean nothing, and you name it. Good news. I had a wonderful (LDR) girlfriend but her excessive excuses about her extreme religious mother and uncle. She hid me under the bus. I loved her affections and her intelligently. There was many red flags from day one. It was my tendency to disregard negatives and believed in positive. Believed things would get better pending on developing down on the road. MY BIGGEST MISTAKE! When we went to a store upon getting off car. She dashed far out from me then turned around and came to me. Thought she saw her religious uncle was there but that was not the case. Her face expression was very terrified. I was forced to reasonable accommodate despite the circumstances of situation of hers from relationship to friendship status until she fix her own situations. Beside I have my own situation that I have to deal with (deceased father, brother in nursing, and etc) it was extra emotional toll on me. She refuse friendship or friend with benefit. I visit her and she never visit my state. No attach string. She demand relationship status even she haven’t fixed her situation and continue hide me under the bus over the time she devalue process I plea her, empathy her, and etc I can get her to SHOW ME. SHOW ME. SHOW ME! There’s no need to be fear! Empathy her REFLECT. REFLECT!!! She energy vampires the shit out of me. Even I proudly show her the world. She hid me under the bus. Communication was lost for few months. Major depression take toll on me. My children helped me to meet my bucket lists over the passing months. I surprised her that I’m coming to visit her. She got angry and blame me for everything. I revealed she dating. It crushed me much more than my ex wife of 25 years. I struggled to stay positive and wished her the best but confusion triggered me and went to counselor. Talked everything. Once cleared up my anger “nuclear” raged. Esteem destroyed. Back to below square one! Revealed her religious mother who I was. Nothing happened around them. Clearly she triangulation us. Betrayed, cheated, infidelity , and manipulated all of her love ones (her relative and friends included). Blaming her religious mother and else. Nothing her. I implemented NO CONTACT! It’s not an easy. It’s hard. I realize she is narcissist. I talked to counselor why am I attracted from narcissists and how do I make them to despise me. Realized my mistakes. Redefined my mistakes. Attend 12 step program. Learn dysfunction traits. It’s long road for me. Glad I listened my counselor to suspend relationship till I love myself and take time. Now and on. No more “speedy” into relationship bypass friendship!!!!! Friendship first. No wonder why there was no friendship but “her terms and conditions”. No reflection. No considerable of another. The most sad part that her friend is “Independent Living Skill” Counselor. Why would she give adviceshit that it’s ok to lie toward her love ones? Ok to manipulate or selfish or imbalance against her love ones!?!?!?! Why can’t she factruth and bold given advice to be free from her terrifying mother and live at her own!?! Instead of unnecessarily infiltration of hurts!?! Dramas. Toxic!!! Well. That’s their problem! It’s sad world we are in. Guess what!?! Apparently her boyfriend that she cheated me turn out future faker to her!!!! I don’t know the story. They been extreme secrecy. Regardless. REFLECT?????? Do she get it????? Do she see what she did to us????? Hide us under the bus! That future faker! Reflect her bullshits she been spewing to me over 3 years!!!!!! I don’t think she gets it. Yes IT IS EXTREMELY HARDEST TO OVERCOME EMOTION OBSTACLES ESPECIALLY ESTEEM DESTROYED TO REBUILD. Long heal process. Please save yourself unnecessary pain. Screen out narcissist the first thing! They do not change for betterment EVEN YOU HOPE FOR. Actions must prove and match words. Not bullshitting. No action. Lastly save yourself from unnecessary trouble or fell off the white horse. It take me long time to get back on white horse. Once my soul/spirit heals I’ll ride higher! Hope my white horse will have wings then we can aim up higher! Time will tell…. Thank you for sharing the story.

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Thanks John. 5 years. I love him but love doesn’t ignore, disappear, or make me feel not seen, heard, or loved. Or beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

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Hi John,

Thank you so much for sharing your story and for being part of this community. You make others feel less alone. This post is about how to deal with a narcissist who may be currently in your life. You bring up some powerful points regarding what can happen once you are out of the relationship. Thank you for bringing this up, because it is very important.

I think many people share a similar experience as the one you describe: after being in a relationship with a narcissist, you soon find yourself in another relationship with another narcissist.

As you have described, this can be so incredibly confusing and painful. I am very sorry to hear about what you have been through, and I’m so happy to know that you are now no longer in contact with those who have mistreated and lied to you. It is so hurtful to be lied to, ignored, and devalued. It takes so much courage to say “no more!” and to physically and emotionally separate yourself from those who hurt you. Please keep going. You are never, ever alone. Much love to you.

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CAUTIOUS. If you have health insurance. Talk your primary doctor for referral to counselor. Take your time find right one fit your situations. Please find strong n straightforward counselor. Not a weak “white lie” ones. Either you like to hear or not. Be brutally honest. Have a good look in of you. Otherwise please try to attend your local ACA 12 Step Program. Invest yellow and big red book. Subscription “Let of Go” “Touchstone1” “Reflection” and “Food for Thoughts” as your daily email. Let of go my favorite. Of course. Subscription PMS!!! I feel your pain. Long progress. (If bad situation). Otherwise maybe speedy recover and progress for you if situation not too saturated like mine. Also your young. :). . I just posted mine above. Oh. FYI. 12 Step Program is free. You can opt to chime in a dollar in collection cup. Depend on circumstance of situation. It’s either easy or hard to move on. How long? Time heals. To move on from narcissist you deeply loved or cared is extreme hard and difficulties. Your gain. Build the better of you. More wisdoms. Accept the loss. (Hard I know). It will wane out over time. Wish you the best.

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Thank you so much for sharing your experience, John. You make others feel less alone.

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Thank you for the love, sharing, and support John. And thank you for being a part of this tribe.

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I cannot thank you enough for ALL of your posts. I am now 9 mos -No Contact and your words and insights are the only reason I have been able to keep going. I have been in and out of a relationship with the same narcissist for over 25 years. I am ashamed to admit the amount of time I have lost trying to prove myself lovable or trying to survive the heartache of yet another break-up because I tried to have a need met. These words seem to be written for me and my situation. I have read your posts so often that I know many passages by heart. You truly have a gift – to explain situations, feelings and behavior in a way that FINALLY made sense to me. It is nothing short of a miracle. I am 52 years old and have felt so defeated- like my life has passed me by. But for the first time, I feel able to start living MY life. Natasha and Irena, I am so blessed to have found your help. I wish I could help you as you have done for me, but I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart. Best wishes to you both – xoxo

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Jodi,

It makes my heart just absolutely burst with happiness reading your comment. I am so sorry for your pain. And I am so happy to know that through it all, you now feel FREE – that you can live your life on your own terms.

Thank you for being part of this community. It has brought me nothing but support and peace. I truly believe that being part of a team where you feel validated, seen, heard, and understood is the key to healing. I have found that to be so true of PMS, Natasha, and all of the readers here. You are so not alone. There are so many people who have found themselves in and out of relationships with narcissists throughout their lifetimes. Not everyone has had the courage to say “NO MORE” as you have. I wish you nothing but freedom and ease from this point forward. Life is so much more fun and gratifying when you no longer have to try hard or to prove yourself loveable to someone who does not have the capacity to connect or attach to ANY human being. Please keep going – I know some days can be harder than others, but you deserve the true, unentangled joy that humans were made to feel. Thanks for sharing your story – you give others so much hope. Much love to you.

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Your love, connection, and support affirm that I am making a difference and helping (which is what I live for). And it pushes me to keep going <3 so, thank YOU, Jodi. All my love to you. xo

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Irena-
This post was incredible…it’s like you ticked off every thought or insecurity I’ve had over the last 6 years. You have such a keen understanding of narcissism…isn’t it amazing how once you see it in a person, you wonder how you didn’t see it? Thank you for this post, although I feel in a good place and free from my narcissistic relationship, it still feels good to come back here and get validated that his bad behavior never had anything to do with me and my worth.

Much love xoxo
CC

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Hi CC,

Thank you so much for the comment. I’m grateful to know this was helpful to you. And I’m so happy to hear you are free! I think we get so caught up in trying to be good enough and in seeking connection from people who simply can’t connect that it’s so hard to see blatant narcissism in a person at …first, second, third…eighteenth. 🙂 To be honest, it wasn’t until I was out of a successive long term relationships with narcissists and onto just casually dating narcissists that I began to see it. I wish the path was cleaner, but it took being exposed to narcissists who I wasn’t completely emotionally tangled up with to see that this pattern of behavior had nothing to do with my worth. I called this my “Narcissist Methadone” period. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it surely reminds me to never, ever judge anyone else’s path. 🙂

Thank you for being part of this community. You give so many people hope — that they too can be free. Much love to you.

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I couldn’t agree more. Incredible post 🙂 !

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This post! I have no words. Thank you Irena, reading it made me feel so many things!

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I agree ♥️ Such an incredible post.

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Thank you, Courtney! I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of this community. Much love to you. ❤️

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Natasha ❥

I’m always commenting on your posts because I truly relate to all of them. This one however really hit me hard. I’ve made a revelation recently in therapy where I discovered that I find myself in relationships with men that resemble my father, (daddy issues is a real thing.) I’m always chasing after this unmet need and unfulfilled love that I never got growing up and don’t to this day from my father. I never understood the cycle, not even with my own father himself. I always tied my worth to these relationships and never felt like I was good enough. I ended up hating myself. Today, I am on the path to learning to love myself and understand that it never had anything to do with me, but everything to do with them. This article has shed so much light on that, I feel like I understand now and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders that has been there for years. Knowledge truly is power and my life has only improved now that I choose to no longer argue with reality, (I learned that from you 🙂

I love you!!!

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I love you too Tiffany 🙂

Glad that this post was helpful <3 and I am so in awe of and proud of you - all that you've survived, all that you are, and the level to which you are THRIVING in spite of what you have endured.

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P.S. I absolutely love this post Irena, thank you! ❥

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Thank you, Tiffany! Your support means so much to me. Thank you for being part of this community. Much love to you. ❤️

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Hi Irena,

I just read this! Gold Standard! Amazing post. Love it…
“They will never respond to you in kind, no matter what you do. It’s not what they know to do”.
This quote is the pure truth.
Much love to you,
Namaste xxx

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Lorelle,

Love you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for the support. Xo Irena ❤️

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So true. Love you both xx

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Irena. Thank you for advocacy comments for others to learn and awareness. Unfortunately whenever we fall in love and turn out blind. “Love Blind” that some of us end up get hurt. To protect yourself. Set limit and boundary with whosoever interest you. PAY ATTENTION! Use big head. Not little head. Yes you can detect all they do is take, take, take, take, and take. No give. No to extreme little balances. High exceptions from you not them. Also notice they use excessive “I, I, I” and not use “our, us, we” and such. Whenever your gut (instinct) bell rings get louder. PAY ATTENTION! Introspect/perspective situation whatsoever gut try to hound you. Don’t hesitate to bring up issue to make your gut feel better. Ignore gut warning and end up hurts. Even badly hurt. (I hate to tell this). Be prepare to exit or ghost out once you detect that this person is a narcissist. Especially perceive that they will not change. Be firmly upfront and honest whenever should they try to drag you on. End it at earliest stage. Not at latter stage. As said for this obvious reason why to start out with friendship is best and less hurts than going into relationship. Unfortunately some people are “Hurry to get married” atlas or with an attitude such as “Do not waste your time with men or women” bullshits. (This establishes there’s no friendship also a trap that you would get stuck and regrets.) Those are huge RED FLAGS! I want to pass this gift to y’all. Back to my younder time. My cousin, Hal, once told me “Take your time and it pays off! Hurry is a waste”. This is the most accurate and fact advice I ever got from him. Again, Irene and Natasha. Thank y’all!

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Agreed! Always best to take it slow, trust your gut, and to look out for red flags from the beginning. Thank you, John.

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My carousel ride is slowing… slowing… I’m starting to see that my horse is made of wood, paint, and exterior adornment, hallow inside. My precious ride is not responding to my joy and love. Time to get off this dizzy experience. I look up. Oh no, there’s a crowd of people looking at this ridiculous grown ass woman riding a carousel. Wake up darling.

Great wake up call. Thank you!

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YES 🙂 Love this!

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Hi to you Jean,

It’s ok. Be kind to yourself… you can ride your WHITE horse and be totally safe and content doing that.
No one will laugh. But they will know your strength.. when we ride our white horse, we gain credibility as we become so in touch with ourselves and sharpen our intuition into a razor blade. No need for a carousel ride ever when you see your own value.

Love to you xxx 🦄🔥🕊

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Thanks so much, Jean, for your comment and for being part of this community. I’m happy to know that this post was helpful to you. And trust me — no one is laughing at you. People are far too consumed with their own internal struggles. Getting off the carousel is about giving yourself the opportunity to (even begin to think about) experiencing a different life. Sounds like you are doing just that. <3 Much love to you. xo Irena

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Heartbroken

I apologize for the long comment in advance. After reading this article I am wondering if the man I’m about to tell you about has narcissistic tendencies… but that’s not entirely why I’m commenting.

About a month ago the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with broke up with me. Let me back up. We met in college about 5 or 6 years ago, but I don’t quite remember meeting him because I was so focused on nursing school. He told me he remembered meeting me vividly. About 10 months ago he found me on Instagram and started messaging me. We hit it off completely. The catch— he lives in California and I live in Florida. We talked for about 3 months, and then a few days before the New Year he flew out to meet me and even asked my dad’s permission to ask me to be his girlfriend. I swooned at this because my family is everything to me. We dated for 7 months. We flew out at least once a month alternating turns spending airfare back and forth. He had met my family when he came to see me, and we drove 4 hours to Arizona the first weekend that I flew out to see him because he wanted me to meet his family. Everything seemed perfect and everyone got along. I felt like we fit into each other’s families. He made me happy and made me feel safe. We texted all day every day, and every night before I went to bed (because of the 3 hour time zone difference) we FaceTimed. It was routine that felt comfortable. Conversation always flowed, and even sitting in silence felt comfortable.
From the get-go I thought I made it obvious that I didn’t want to leave Florida (at least for right now).This is my home. My friends, family, and career opportunities are here, but I think we both waited too long to physically have the actual conversation of who is moving when. I think I assumed that he understood and that he’d eventually move here. He would send me houses from real estate apps for houses in my area. When he would come to visit me he was the one who suggested going to look at new houses in housing developments in my area. He dreamed with me. He was the one who brought up dog names and then later our kids names. I recently got my dream job offered to me here in Florida (I’m going to be a NICU nurse). I had been wanting this longer than I had been dating him, but when I got the job offer things were still up in the air and I asked him if he’d be okay if I accepted it. He told me to accept the job that he would never want me to not take a job because of him and that he knew it was my dream job. Because of his answer I again thought that he was planning on moving here to be with me.
We had lightly covered the topic of moving before, but had never gone in depth. He had told me that “We both have to be open to moving. If you had to move to California know that it would be for a very short period of time because I know that you wouldn’t be happy here, and that I know that we’d settle down in Florida.” So I always had that in the back of my mind. The last time we got together with his friends we were IN FLORIDA and one of them asked him “so, when are you going to move to Florida?” And he kind of hesitated and said that we were trying to figure everything out. His best friend was the one who started us talking about the whole moving issue. A couple weeks later I was in California visiting him again. He came up with many reasons why he didn’t think he wanted to move to Florida and it ultimately boiled down to him saying “I don’t think I’ll be happy in Florida.” While I don’t want to be his sole source of happiness, I would hope to be part of his happiness. I don’t want to move across the country for anyone if I’m not already married to this person (or if we lived in the same place for awhile, got engaged, and then had to move away for some reason). Those are personal preferences of mine. I had told him that I’d be willing to discuss moving but only after he lived here for awhile and gave it a chance here. My new job requires a two year minimum commitment since they are training me. I had also told him before that I didn’t think I’d be able to do long distance for more than a year. He was going to be completing his MBA online this Fall, so he was going to be looking for a new job soon anyway. When I was in California nothing really was solved. We were going to wait, and he said he was going to ask God for a sign to see where he should go. (I personally feel like I should’ve been the sign to move to Florida since I responded to him way back when he first messaged me on Instagram, and we seemed to fit so perfectly except for the long distance). After this heavy conversation we had while I was there I didn’t feel like myself. I felt all of my walls coming back up. I felt scared to open up to him more because I didn’t want to get hurt in the end. I wasn’t eating, I could hardly sleep… After many back and forth conversations, I told him that if he didn’t end up deciding to move here that I didn’t know how our relationship would last. He said “So it’s a lose-lose for me and a lose-win for you. If I move to Florida I get to keep you but I lose California. If I stay in California I lose you.” (He also used the argument that his family lived on the West Coast, but his immediate family was 4 hours away. My immediate family is in the same city that I live in… but that’s a different topic).
We were supposed to go on each other’s family vacations this year. Most of the plane tickets were bought already, all except his plane ticket to here (but all the others were purchased). I made the decision that we shouldn’t go on each other’s family vacations because I knew I wasn’t going to be myself. I knew that the thought of what he was going to decide would constantly be on my mind as it had been already, and that wouldn’t have been fair to me, him, or our respective families. When I told him to not buy the ticket and my reasonings why over FaceTime that night, he mulled it over for quite some time. He was blindsided that I wanted to hold off for this year on vacations. He ultimately said that he’d never be happy in Florida and then he said that we should break up. My heart feels shattered. One thing that I keep wondering is if (for the last 5 days of that vacation span we were going to be just the two of us) he wanted to have one more week of sleeping with me before telling me that we should break up, or if it wasn’t that malicious. That’s something that I know I’ll never know… but it kills me that I won’t know it. I miss him with every fiber of my being, but I know that I belong where I am. However, every time my phone has a notification I hope that it’s him—even though I know it won’t be. I logically know that it is over and will stay over, but I can’t let go. I don’t know how. I haven’t spoken to him since we broke up, and that’s been killing me… but I know that if we kept in contact it would be even harder to let him go because neither of our answers have changed on who’s moving. I’ve had a breakup before, but it wasn’t this heartbreaking. I feel like I’m missing a limb, like my heart has been ripped out of my chest and stepped on. My appetite is slowly coming back, and I can sleep now (with the help of melatonin), but my heart still aches for him. I miss his companionship, I miss laughing with him, I miss telling him about my day and hearing about his, and I miss sleeping with him too…. My best friend introduced me to Natasha’s Instagram and this blog, and honestly she’s been so helpful with what she posts. These blog posts feel like they’re written specifically for me. My best friend also had me go to my PCP shortly after my breakup because I hadn’t been eating or sleeping well. She put me on a one month low dose antidepressant and she referred me to a psychiatrist. I admittedly didn’t go because I don’t feel comfortable going to a place and talking to someone face-to-face like that… I spoke with a chaplain at the hospital a few times (hour long sessions sort of like a counseling session) which was very helpful. I completed my month’s worth of medication, and I really don’t want to be on anything else (and no, I promise I’m NOT suicidal, otherwise I promise I’d reach out to the proper resources).
I don’t really know where I wanted to go with this post or where I needed it to end, but I just don’t know how to help the pain lessen? When am I supposed to move on? If he’s constantly in the back of my mind I’m not going to be able to have the ability to let someone else in.

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Amazing post, Irena! I really needed this tonight. Thank you for reminding me of what I have learned… yet, I am missing him terribly, nevertheless! If only he would look into my eyes again that way and tell me I’m beautiful… if only he’d tell me he’s sorry for hurting me… it’s sick, but I’d give anything for that. How pathetic! I know better! I NEED to fix the last conversation we had, where he said he didn’t love me and that I wasn’t deserving of any further discussion. I NEED to erase how I texted him and threw myself at him, only to be ignored!
It’s been years since we’ve had any communication, yet I cannot get over him. I keep wishing for a moment where we can talk it out and I can get closure. Intellectually, i know that I am equipped with all that I need to do this on my own and that he will never give me what I seek from him. But I can’t seem to stop wishing for this. I’m so frustrated with myself! Please help!

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Oops! Posted this as a reply instead of a new comment…

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Hi Heartbroken,

I’m really sorry to hear about what happened. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve often found that writing all of this out can be cathartic in some way, but it also helps others feel less alone here.

First, I think you should give yourself a lot of credit for (1) being open with your boundary that you cannot do a long distance relationship for very long and (2) respecting and protecting yourself enough to not put yourself through a vacation when the relationship was dissolving. Both of those things take a LOT of courage, particularly when you feel a heart tug away from doing what you know will protect you. Many many many people have found themselves in go nowhere long distance relationships for much longer (and continue to stay in them because of what they have already “invested”) If you haven’t already, I would recommend reading Natasha’s post on long distance relationships and “Making an emotional investment: when to invest and when to fold.”

So you trusted your gut and stood up for yourself. And now you are heartbroken. It doesn’t seem fair, because it’s not. This is my very very unprofessional opinion, but I think you made this guy before he was ready to reveal who he truly is. I can sit here and tell you about how much better off you are, and that would be true. But I also understand that this doesn’t get you very far, because I’m willing to bet that every person reading this blog misses and loves someone who does not deserve them.

This is because underneath all the logic, the processing, the rehashing, and the timelines is LOSS.. In your case, it sounds like a lot of losses: loss of love, loss of the life you imagined together, loss of the excitement of starting a new phase of your life and career while sharing the new experience with someone else, and loss of a person who seemed to truly understand how important your family is to you. Among I’m sure many others.

Losses have to be deeply grieved, and there are a lot of them here. When I read your story, I saw so much of myself (which is why you should take this as opinion only — we’re all quite prone to projection, and I’m not exception 🙂 When this happened, you took action. You took care of yourself. You went to see a doctor. You reached out to a professional who you trusted. You sought social support from your friends. While all of these things are healthy, I think that our rush to DO SOMETHING can sometimes deter or slow down our need to just be really really really sad for a while.

And you may be thinking, you have been sad, but it’s my (again, unprofessional) opinion that your body holds onto grief and you will continue to process this (in a million different ways — mentally, physically, emotionally), until you stop arguing with reality, come to an acceptance about who your boyfriend revealed himself to be, and let this experience transform you.

I don’t know enough about your situation and we could discuss this endlessly, but my fear for you is that, you will mask your grief with anxiety, which will prevent you from taking care of yourself, siding with yourself, and trusting yourself. You have been through an upsetting situation. You will rehash this, you will constantly check your phone, you will go out with other people and think about your ex. These are completely normal things. I think this is the time to really pay attention to yourself and to ask yourself what you need — it will change every day.

You already have an amazing starting point, which was you telling this guy NO MORE. You have this power within you to stand up for yourself and protect yourself. This is an incredible quality that you should be really proud of. I’m so sorry for what you are going through, but please know that you are never alone. Everyone who has read your comment resonates with some part of your story.

This post is about narcissists, but the bottom line is (and Natasha has expressed this so kindly and eloquently in her writing, much better than I will do here): sometimes we meet people and we become part of THEIR story. This is normal because when we fall in love, we want to believe that we are on a team and have similarly aligned goals. It’s romantic, even.

Except when the person ends up revealing that their story SUCKS. In some ways, your ex does seem to have narcissistic traits — many narcissists talk a big game, make grandiose future promises, convince you they are perfect for you. Every relationship occurs on an accelerated, whirlwind timeline. OR your ex is an emotional unavailable and immature guy who does not have the character and integrity to follow through on his promises. OR any number of scenarios in between that spectrum. Yes, you will think about these things and endlessly try to figure it out, but know this: emotionally unavailable people of any kind cannot be any other way. Some take longer than others, but they all reveal themselves in time. You did not make this future faker break his promises. You were simply part of the story in which he did this to someone.

But you chose to get outta there and make your own story. That’s incredible, and we are all proud of you for that. You this as a springboard to continue to side with yourself and give yourself what you need while you process the loss of this relationship. Much love to you. xo, Irena

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I am an avid supporter of this blog and each post always speaks to me but for some reason today this post spoke directly to me and opened my eyes even deeper into my healing process. I cannot think of any words to say other than thank you, thank you for taking the time to post this.

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Hi Jamie,

Thank you so much for your comment. I’m so happy to know that this resonated with you. Thank you for being part of this community. The healing process is hard, and what you are going through is very brave. You are supported and never alone. Much love to you, xo Irena

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I am mid-cycle of the latest silent treatment. Not so much silent, but cold and disconnected. 11 years of this and I am still on the pendulum because we are married, we have so much debt and a 6 year old son. 11 years ago, I saw and experienced the same signs. He would lie to me, withdraw when anything became argumentative and I felt worthless and unloved. Jump forward, two domestic violence cases that landed on ME because I would get off my white horse and be so frustrated I got violet and even developed a very bad drinking problem to cope. 11 years ago I wasn’t the mess I am now- but now it seems the way he treats me is deserved since I have lost all credibility. The only intimacy is sex. The only time I feel close to him. He criticizes me for EVERYTHING I do, even the smallest things but I can never ever do the same to him. I have to be quiet and walk on those eggshells just to keep the peace for my son. How in the hell do I get out of this. Even now, with this silent treatment- I will text him and ask him questions about our son or finances or anything and he is cold and short with his answers. Tomorrow might be different. Tomorrow he might be kind, sweet and attentive Its a roller coaster and I feel like I cannot get off. I live in constant anxiety. If I was financially able, I would leave and never look back. I have bought him so many high price items because he gets happy when he has the latest gadget- even a brand new truck. I have also broken things of his, because I would be struggling to pay the bills and he would be buying himself watches – I have broken those things out of fits of resentment and rage and he still reminds me every time we fight what a drunk, or loser I am and how I break things. I was never like this. This is NOT who I am. I would give anything to walk away.

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Hi Alicia,

I am so sorry that you are going through this. I think you should give yourself credit for having an awareness (even if it comes and goes) of what is actually happening in reality: that your partner is unstable, inconsistent, and that his treatment of you is symptomatic of HIS OWN toxicity. Please know you are not alone in how you feel. You are going through an incredibly difficult situation in which it is very easy to get swept UNDER on a daily, even hourly, basis. I think that once people bonded in these types of relationships, it takes so much emotional strength to separate yourself and your worth from the the abusive treatment of your partner. You DO NOT deserve to be treated this way, and you are not crazy. It is normal to react in an angry way when you perceive to be abused and mistreated. There’s that quote that gets passed around and is attributed to Freud that reads something like this: before you diagnose yourself with anxiety and depression, make sure you are not, in fact, surrounded by a-holes.

I know it may seem like a drop in the bucket, but my unprofessional opinion is that the more you NOTICE patterns, cycles, inconsistencies in your partner AND most importantly, how YOU react, what you do, what you say, the more your strength will increase. You are already doing it here when you said that you continue to text him during silent treatments about your son. The more that you begin to notice, to ask yourself questions, and to separate your worth from his behavior, the more strong you will feel. I don’t know anything about you, but I believe that for many people who get into these types of relationships get triggered into old patterns of reacting/responding, because those patterns have kept them afloat, emotionally, in the past.

Please take care and be kind to yourself. No one has risen out of a toxic situation or healed by hating themselves. I know it’s hard, but please continue to have your own back as you try to navigate this situation. You are loved, supported, and never alone here. Much love to you. xo Irena

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I’m so glad that you published another article on narcissism. For some, it’s a misused word to describe any guy that’s an asshole. But for many of us, who have being entangled with these types, the damage is so long reaching and devastating. We have no way of coping with the toxicity, and confounding behaviour….. the hot and cold, the lies, the love and ultimately the breakage of our spirits.

For me, the inability to have anything other than black and white thinking….. object constancy…… the ability to know that at the end of the day you still love someone, even if their actions/words/etc are pissing you off in that moment. For me, that was a major RED flag when his thinking and actions were so black and white. No grey. Zero. At first I mistook it for complete confidence, in so far as, this is who I am, these are my values and that is that.

But no. You are either on their team or not. You are either providing them with their all important fuel, or you’re not. Winners and Losers. Haves and Have nots. Good and Bad.

I NEVER thought the freedom you talked about was possible. I NEVER though I would wake up without him the first thought in my mind,

I was abused, loved, hurt, disrespected, controlled, subjugated, devalued and discarded.

A year free Natasha and Irena!

Without his darkness, I would never have found my light. I am me again. Perfectly imperfect and complete.

Mai x

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Amazing post, Irena! I really needed this tonight. Thank you for reminding me of what I have learned… yet, I am missing him terribly, nevertheless! If only he would look into my eyes again that way and tell me I’m beautiful… if only he’d tell me he’s sorry for hurting me… it’s sick, but I’d give anything for that. How pathetic! I know better! I NEED to fix the last conversation we had, where he said he didn’t love me and that I wasn’t deserving of any further discussion. I NEED to erase how I texted him and threw myself at him, only to be ignored!
It’s been years since we’ve had any communication, yet I cannot get over him. I keep wishing for a moment where we can talk it out and I can get closure. Intellectually, i know that I am equipped with all that I need to do this on my own and that he will never give me what I seek from him. But I can’t seem to stop wishing for this. I’m so frustrated with myself! Please help!

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Christie, I really feel your pain. They make the golden period so special that we’d do anything to get that feeling back again. But it’s not real. They’re not capable of sustaining something that has a strong and real foundation. Read about trauma bonding and cognitive dissonance. Take the scissors that were handed to you (by you… by the inner child looking out for yourself) and cut him loose. You are worth more than he can give you. You are tied to him bc he reflected the amazing person you are and that’s addictive bc who doesn’t want to be shown that sort of love? But he’s emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. He’s a ghost, an enigma. A waste of your heart and time.

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Thank you, Mai! ❤️ Indeed, I will read more about trauma no ding and cognitive dissonance… great suggestions! So happy to hear you’re now in a great place!

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Thank you so much, Mai, for being of such incredible support to this community. These are such wise and kind words.

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Irena, this website saved me! It gave me back my sanity, when I was in a dark place with no hope. You, Lorelle and Natasha were my lifelines and I will be forever grateful. I would say you have no idea, but clearly you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to connect so meaningfully. A million thanks. A million hugs and kisses. When I first started healing I would read Natasha’s posts and want so desperately to relate but never thought it possible. I was in despair. Now that I am healed, I realise it is completely possible. And I am so grateful. It does take work, but it’s worth it to be free.

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Hi Christie,

Thank you for your comment. I’m going to address some of the things that you wrote about. First, it’s completely normal to feel regret, loss, and a need for closure, even if a lot of time has passed since the break up. I think one of the worst things about getting out of relationships with people who have narcissistic adaptations is that most people, even professionals, do not understand the trauma that is uncovered as a result of the break. I worry that many people out there feel shame, feel like there is something wrong with them, or believe that their ex partner is their one and only love BECAUSE it is taking so long to “get over” the relationship. Feeling through the loss, grief, and other underlying feelings that have cropped up because of the break up are YOUR thing on YOUR timeline. Don’t let anybody (most of all yourself), tell you otherwise.

I think your desire for closure, your regrets, and your need to erase the past are all just elements of you continuing to process the break up. Again, this is all normal, and I’m willing to bet that your body and mind were on a constant processing loop even while IN the relationship. On a basic level, it’s very difficult to break out of that cycle. What you are trying to do is very brave. Many people stay stuck in this cycles for decades.

I echo what Mai and others have commented here though — please trust that you have done the right thing by staying away and if you allow it, this type of break up can be truly TRANSFORMATIONAL. I believe that fair or not, some people were placed in our lives in order to reveal to us who we are authentically capable of being and becoming, when we stop trying to placate, perform, and seek validation from people who have no ability to manufacture such things for themselves, much less others.

As I said in this post, people with narcissistic adaptions are obviously also individual people, with their own preferences, background, etc. Posts like this cannot read the minds of anyone, but I do believe that the manifestation of the adaptation, in some cases, can be generalized to some extent. The first generalization I can make, based on my purely street cred, unprofessional opinion is that you cannot get closure from a person with narcissistic adaptations. And this doesn’t have to be because they don’t care or want to hurt you further.

It is because they mentally and emotionally do not have the ability to give this to you. In this type of situation, it is simply not possible to be healed by someone who hurt you. Read Natasha’s post about the one thing you need to know about your narcissistic ex. In the same way you would not ask a student who just failed a remedial math class to help you with your calculus homework, people with narcissistic adaptations simply cannot process the attachment and aftermath of intimate relationships. In my experience and in the experience of others, trying to extract closure or an apology will often make you feel more frustrated. You got out of a relationship with someone who cannot process intimacy.

Additionally, a lot of what we read online paints a picture of people with narcissistic variations of having cold, dark, manipulative hearts. This may be true of some people, but I think this kind of rhetoric adds salt on the would for people who are trying to heal from these types of relationships. Many people ask “was it real” and begin anew trying to process how it is conceivably possible that someone who they loved could have never loved them back at all/whether it was all a charade. People with narcissistic adaptions are deeply traumatized people who wreck relational havoc and cannot ever heal.

It is absolutely imperative to stay away from such a person. Words do match actions. There is no empathy, etc. BUT as Mai mentioned, if you are trauma bonded to such a person, I think you will only feel more bereft and abandoned if you only see your ex in black and white terms. Love is strange for narcissists. From your comment, I understand you crave and miss some of the love that you felt. I think you will continue to process and miss this until you come to terms with the fact that the love that you experienced, at the time, was as far as your ex was able to go. It may very well have been authentic and true in the moment. It does not mean that you were not loved or appreciated . It just means that all you can get, because that is all there IS. These types of relationships gut us to our core because they harken back to trauma bonds of the past. We are inevitably triggered into believing that there is something wrong with us and that the other party has left us in order to share their love with someone more deserving. I have never once seen this to be the case. These types of relationships end because the person with narcissistic adaptations is mentally and emotionally not equipped to go any further. The gas they use to go as far as they do is largely supplied through a reflection of YOU. Your love, your empathy, and your energy.

Take Mai’s advice to heart and remember that the joy and love you felt in the moment was YOU reflecting back toward yourself. YOU have that inside of you in true, authentic, and beautiful form. You are just dimmed at the moment, but I promise that if you let this experience transform you, you will feel that joy once again. Much love to you. xo Irena

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Thank you so much for your insights, Irena! I am very appreciative of your reply. Indeed, I have wondered what is “wrong with me” for taking so long to get over him… and to make it worse, I have had friends and family judge me for not being over this loss already, which obviously only makes me feel more traumatized and broken. And you are so on point – when I was in the relationship, my mind was constantly in a processing loop… towards the end, I had become so exhausted from worrying and wondering, that I was secretly mentally and emotionally considering throwing in the towel. I hadn’t yet taken action, when he suddenly broke my heart. (For the record, I don’t think the breakup was a result of him sensing this – as the end was caused by another catalyst). Ironically, as soon as he decided for me, I was beyond desperate to get him back! WTF?!? Because crumbs seemed better than a life without him. And I often still feel this way – like I’d rather have dysfunctional love from him, rather than none at all… Intellectually, I know this is not healthy, but if I’m honest… my heart still wants what it wants – which is extremely frustrating to me. Why can’t my heart align with my brain?! I have worked on loving myself and think that I do, but obviously I do not, otherwise I would probably be repulsed by him.

It is helpful to hear about how some people are simply not emotionally equipped to go deeper with their emotions. I do believe that’s true in his case. He’s simply not capable. There were red flags. Earlier on in the relationship, I told him that I loved him and asked if it was mainly a physical connection for him at that point or if there were feelings involved. He replied that “he couldn’t let his mind go there yet”. He would sometimes talk about his dysfunctional childhood and how he knew he was fucked up. He’d say, “once my looks are gone, I’m done”. His admission that he was difficult to deal with only made me love him more. I melted in his vulnerability and so badly wanted to finally give him the love that he never got from his parents.I was willing to accepting his limitations, as we all have some. I still feel like this, where I can’t accept that someone is so toxic that they can’t change with the help and love of another. Doesn’t love conquer all? It seemed the were glimpses where he would ‘get it’ – where he seemed to validate the truth and understand. But then, a switch would flip and he’d grow cold and distant. Always black or white – no grey area. I would hang on, waiting for him to show his soul to me once again…That is why I can’t let go. I keep wondering if deep down, he loved/s me and is sorry for pushing me away?

I reached out to him after the breakup, asking for clarity and he wouldn’t respond. I cannot wrap my brain around how someone who cared for me could leave me hanging like that. I would feel so guilty for hurting them! I reached out again and said that after all the years, that I deserved a response at the very least. The most hurtful thing that he texted back was that he agreed with some of what I had written, “minus the deserving part”. I was crushed. I AM damn well deserving of a response from a person whom I shared years of my life with!

After reading more about trauma bonding, there is no doubt in my mind that this also my situation. It was a roller coaster ride. While I do understand that the highs felt even more amazing due to the contrast of the low points, I still feel that he is one of a kind that I will never be able to replace. The chemistry, connection and passion that we had does not come close to any other relationship that I’ve had. Now that I’ve experienced those highs, I can’t seem to be satisfied with a life without that. The only reason that I haven’t gone back is that he won’t take me back/talk to me. So I can’t take any credit for having kept him out of my life. I am ashamed to say that I have reached out and tried. BTW, aren’t narcissists supposed to try hoover you back? Why not me? Am I not good enough for that step? The only reason that I think he hasn’t tried, is because I have figured him out. Now that he has been exposed, he likely has no use for me.

This site helps tremendously, as I feel understood for the first time and less alone. Thank you to you all! You ARE making a huge difference in so many lives! Looking forward to learning more! xo

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Hi Christie,

Please be kind to yourself and proud that you have kept this person out of your life for such a long time. He is the problem, not you. Even if you sat down with him, you would not get your closure, but more confusion and pain. You have given closure to yourself, it’s the fact that you had to be emotionally mature enough to leave the relationship.

I know how this feels, I think about her every day and it’s only been 2.5 months since I left and went no contact. It is very hard on some days, but knowing that after this amount of time she has not even tried to contact me only reinforces that I made the right choice.

Just because we love or want someone does not mean we need or should have them in our lives.

Stay strong!

Jeff

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Jeff,

Thank you so much for your support of this community! You make others feel less alone. I agree that asking for closure will only bring more pain — we cannot be healed by those who hurt us. Heartbreaking, but true. Much love to you. xo Irena

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Thanks, Jeff! I absolutely know that you’re right… he would not give me closure. The only positive thing to come of it might be that I’d be reminded of how disgusted I am with his black hole of a heart, I suppose. Also, agree 100% that the fact that he hasn’t reached out to me reinforces how little he ever really cared…
Good luck to you too. Stay strong… its good to know that someone else understands.

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Christie,

Just as a follow up, I learned that there are people who may have a heart, but do not possess a conscious or soul. They are not capable of seeing the effect of their words and actions on others. I have been trying to forgive, especially since I will never know what her situation/mindset really was and let it go. Looking for peace instead of closure.

Be well!

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What hit me about this article was the triangulation aspect you referred too. This is such a true statement and I am glad to see you addressed this trait. A lot of articles are very well written on narcissism, but few speak of triangulation. I had a five year relationship with a man who I thought was awesome; however, after everything was said and done, I was a shell of the person I used to be and I know this relationship has changed my core being on a fundamental level. I struggle to find the happy, vivacious and healthy person I used to be and I don’t know if I ever will. I must have been a shining empathic beacon of light for this covert narcissist who honed in on my happy energy as a food source for his dark bottomless rabbit hole.

In the beginning he loved bombed me, fast forwarded our relationship, started moving goal posts further outward and continued to boundary push my lines drawn in the sand, and after awhile into our relationship, I began to feel as if I was an option. Whenever we would go out in public I began to notice he would behave in ways that made it seem as if I needed to compete for his attention with other women or he would act as if these women were more appealing and more sexually attractive. I thought we had a good relationship, but then he would place me in situations that he knew hurt me because he found satisfaction from my hurt and displayed feelings of euphoria/worthy from the other women(s) attention. I talked with him so many times about how these situations hurt me and he would gaslight me as if it were my own inadequacies or my imagination that caused the problem. There are so many memories of situations small and large where I look back and can see the gradual devaluation of my happiness and the reward he felt for inflicting pain on me as a boundary pushing mechanism to control me. My discomfort and devaluation was a manipulation technique he had used on so many women before me, but I had never been in a relationship with someone who knew how to use another persons love and kindness as a way of sustaining their lack of a healthy love for themselves. I must admit I spent hours and hours on the internet trying to figure out what this insidious beast did to me and I was able to realize what he did, how he did it, and how I allowed and enabled this person to take away my light. The healing has taken me years and I still feel at times unhealthy, unhappy, and I truly feel as if I somehow absorbed his darkness that he spread over my life while taking my healthy happy light away. What a terrible thing someone who is hurting (narcissist) can do to another person who wanted to love them but didn’t know how sick they really are very deep down inside their rabbit hole. Thank God I was able to crawl out with my life.

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You can’t imagine how much you give to your readers. Every time when I come to your blog, it fills me with such a positive and strong energy. Sometimes it feels like when your big sister gives you a slap while you are crying over a narcissist and Tells you to put your fuck*n crown back and take your shit together because you are more than just a relationship. So as a soul to a soul I would like to thank you what you are doing, you helped me a lot even if I live on the other side of the world. Never stop doing what you do!

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Thank you from the bottom of my heart Sarah <3 It's what I live for.

I just want to provide everything that I wish I would have had. All my love to you soul sister. xx

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Hi Irena!
I’m coming out of a 2 year on and off toxic relationship with a guy I loved more than anything. I was addicted to the value and de-value cycles within our relationship because I saw myself with him forever. After two years of being head over heels in love with him, I lost my virginity to him which he knew was a big deal for me, as I wanted it to be with the right person. The next day, he was cruel and mean and said I was moving too fast and that he wasn’t ready to commit. I found out that he has slept with countless women throughout the course of our relationship. I ended up screenshotting our conversation and ranting on social media because I was so angry about how he had treated me. I ended things and blocked him and I am actually extremely sad that it’s over because I saw him as my future husband and the father of my children. I don’t know what to do to feel okay. I’m so sad that I had sex with him when I knew there were red flags and I have waited so long and said no to so many guys in the past to give it to someone who is a lying cheating douchebag who never really cared or loved me. I feel worthless and broken and devastated that I will never be able to see him or talk to him again or experience the highs of when everything was good, which I know is twisted. I would describe this breakup as coming off of drug addiction. It’s like the most painful emotional withdrawals. I just want to sleep and can’t stop crying but I have homework to do for grad school and am determined to keep going to work. I will not allow this to break me.

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Lexi,

I’m so sorry to read your story. I’m going to make some assumptions here, because all I know is what you have written. Please take what rings as true and feel free to ignore what does not resonate. Thank you for sharing your experience. You make others feel less alone.

You are describing a traumatic experience. I think this doesn’t get talked about enough (especially for people who are young), but some break ups, for various reasons, cause far more emotional turbulence than what we are lead to believe. We live in a culture when you are supposed to call your ex an SOB with your friends and move on. And when people “move on,” they move on to the same guy, the same situation, every time.

But this is going to be different for you. This experience, as awful as it is, will be transformational for you. How do I know? I know because you are already processing what occurred to you in a very self aware way. You are already describing the break up as an addiction. You are coming here, sharing, seeking support, and separating YOUR self worth from the toxic MO of your ex.

I think your primary goal right now, before anything else, including forgiving yourself and forgiving your ex , is for you to feel stabilized and safe. It is not possible to process thoughts and emotions while in a frantic or traumatized state. It just doesn’t work and will put you in a forever loop of just living to survive. How do you get to feeling safe again? First, kindness. Then protection.

Just like animals, when humans go through trauma, what we need is physical comfort. I don’t just mean take a bubble bath. I mean, make it your number one priority to be kind to yourself, as much as you can, during most of your day, and especially at night. Mental and emotional kindness doesn’t come easily during a time like this. But physical kindness does. This means purposefully creating an environment in which you feel warm, nourished, and safe. This means soft blankets, warm cookies, your favorite coffee/tea/beverage, a plan for a meal that will make you feel good, doing something daily that you truly love, even if it’s just for a few minutes. It means staying away from people who trigger you, who make you feel less than, or who put expectations around their love for you. This includes people who tell you to “get over it.” If hugging a stuffed animal makes you feel silly, hug a soft pillow. Wherever you are, pay attention to how you feel in your body. Dig your toes into the ground. Run your thumb across your fingers. Breathe. Name colors or things around you in your mind. Anything that grounds you to the here and now.

This may sound like BS, but I can’t emphasize this enough: feeling physically present and cared for will help your nervous system to stabilize, until you feel safe to process your break up further. You deserve this. What I am telling you to do is not “pathetic” or “self love.” It is the least that you would do for a wet, cold, hurt animal at your door. For whatever reason, we (ALL) have difficulty doing this for ourselves. You have been through a traumatic situation, and what you need most, is to treat your body with attention and love.

If kindness is the first element of CPR for the kind of break up you are describing, protection is the second. I usually say that getting through a break up is a lot like having to get up to go to school every day. You’re in school right now, so maybe this resonates with you. There will be things that you do not want to do, that you will have to do. There will be things you really want to do, that you must not do. You may want to reach out to your ex. You may want to close your eyes and wish for nothing more than to be together with him. You may see the world as a muddy shade of gray without him and the things associated with YOUR life, your development, your happiness, as pointless. It used to make me laugh when I would read “break up” articles that suggested mani pedis or haircuts as cures for a broken heart. I think when you’re in a dark place, it’s hard to understand why you would do anything that benefits you, if the one precious thing you feel you have lost, is not there to experience your life with you.

It’s hard to ask yourself to do things to protect yourself right now, so it’s a bit pointless for me to ask you to do that. What I am asking you to do is to do those things for FUTURE you. This is a bit like parenting yourself. It’s a bit like getting up to go to school (when you were a little kid), because you are told to, not because you truly want to.

What I love about Natasha’s writing is that when she talks about protecting yourself, she does not do so in an ego-forward way. Because ego-forward statements are a dime a dozen and are the first to disappear when you are triggered and in pain. So when talking about protection, I would rely LESS on Lizzo-like “walk your fine A out the door”/”get over this jerk”/”you’re better than this” lines of thought and take this as an opportunity to think about the kind of person you want to be in the future. You’re already kicking A, in grad school, working, and processing your feelings.

You have the support of so many people who know what it is like to have an absolutely crushed heart. Not one of those people expects you to snap of your fingers, call your ex an A hole, and be over this. But we are ALSO all here to support future you turning this experience and becoming the most (to use Natasha’s terminology) unf*ckwithable version of yourself. A person who does not have time for idiots, emotionally unavailable, narcissistic, and empathy challenged people.

Natasha wrote an incredible post that asked the reader to imagine themselves as the leading character in a movie. If you’re watching this movie, and you see yourself now, in pain and wondering what to do from this point forward, you would probably cheer for YOU to ACT in support of your pain, turn away from the toxic and take steps toward a new, dynamic life.

This means making a promise to truly stay away from the person who hurt you. I know you know this, but this guy does not have what it takes to heal you. This post is about narcissists, and if it sounds like your relationship, narcissists (as well as toxic and emotionally unavailable people) are stunted, traumatized, grasping people who cannot emotionally regulate themselves, much less provide any empathy, care, or support for others. He doesn’t have what it takes to explain what happened, to say he is sorry, or to change for you or anyone.

DO NOT blame yourself for falling for, having sex with, and trusting this type of person. You are NOT the one to blame. Sometimes, we walk into other people’s stories, and we are surprised when the plot runs on without modicum of character or integrity. You entered into a toxic system and did what you could to work with someone who does not have empathy, self awareness, or will to change. But you are OUT of that story now. This person is no longer a part of your future and you will one day look back on this experience as the time in your life when you said “NO MORE” of this bs and meant it.

I understand that you may blame yourself for getting caught up in the highs and lows. THIS IS NORMAL. Wanting the highs back is normal too. First, it is physiologically normal for you to be experiencing withdrawals because of what happens in the body during the highs and lows. The “addiction” is also mental/psychological. I don’t know your history, but often people who find themselves in relationships that come with nerve-searing highs and lows have experienced such waves in the past, whether in other relationships, in their childhood, because of interactions with family members, or a number of other factors. I would ask you to think about whether the highs and lows somehow felt familiar to you in some way. Given a certain history, people who make us feel that way often ping an old, often undiscovered, place in ourselves that resonates vibrantly in their presence and feels like a what you suppose true joy may feel like. Please know you are not alone in this. And in most cases, when people like that walk into our lives, they are here to teach us NOT what true joy is, but what true love IS NOT.

There is no timeline here for you to process these things. I don’t know you, but I find that once people get to a place when you can process what happened, they find that the people and life they have created mirrors the life they have always known. Please know that you are beautiful, loved, supported, and POWERFUL. You have the ability to ACT on your pain and to say no more to engaging with people who make you feel disrespected, unloved and unworthy. You have the power to create a new world, with new people and experiences that show you what true joy is, without the pain that comes with engaging with people like your ex, who make you feel like their love is also untrustworthy and conditional. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: you won’t have to suffer for love. For now, and for always, please be kind to yourself.

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